SUMMIT HILL – With the opening of Pennsylvania's six-week, statewide archery deer season next Saturday, taxidermist Randy Hill of Hill's Wildlife Taxidermy is going through his annual ritual of preparing for the trophies that will be coming into his shop, located between Lehighton and Summit Hill.
Trophies with Pennsylvania tags come into his shop in the form over everything from entire, field-dressed deer to skinned buck with the head and antlers still attached to hides and skull plates with the antlers. And, that is just fine.
While thousands of area bowhunters will going afield during the Pennsylvania archery deer season, hundreds will also be traveling to out-of-state destinations in pursuit of deer, elk and even moose. It is those hunters who should be aware of new Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations regarding what may be legally brought back into the state as a preventive measure against the introduction Chronic Wasting Disease.
First identified in 1967, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that affects cervids, including all species of deer, elk and moose. It is a progressive and always fatal disease of the nervous system that scientists theorize is caused by an unknown agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form.
There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine, but there is no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating meat of infected animals. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling and, ultimately, death.
"We're very fortunate here in Pennsylvania that no traces of CWD have been found in either or whitetail deer or elk herd," Hill said. "One of the best ways for hunters to prevent the introduction of the disease is to follow the guidelines announced this spring by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for bringing hides and antlers back from out-of-state hunts."
In May, PGC executive director Carl Roe signed a revised executive order concerning the importing of specific carcass parts by hunters from members of the deer family, which includes mule deer, elk and moose, from 14 states and two Canadian provinces. Affected states are Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, the CWD containment area of New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Hampshire County in West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
"According to the information I've received, the order is specific to prevent hunters from bringing back certain tissue from the states or provinces on the list," Hill said. "This pertains to both fair-chase and high-fence hunts."
Targeted are the specific carcass parts where the CWD prions concentrate in cervids. They are the brain, tonsils, eyes and lymph nodes of the head; the spinal cord and backbone; the spleen; the skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; the cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; and unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides.
"Hunters are permitted to import cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, but all brain or spinal cord tissue must be removed," Hill said. "Raw hides and capes may also be brought back for tanning and mounts, but they also must be scraped clean of brain and spinal cord tissue."
According to the PGC guidelines, not effected is the importation of meat, upper canine teeth that has been cleaned of root structure and other soft tissue and finished taxidermy mounts. It is also advised that those hunting in a state or providence with a history of CWD should become familiar with its wildlife regulations and guidelines for the transportation of game.
As a further precaution, the PGC provides the following tips when hunters in areas where CWD is known to exist:
Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that appears sick; contact wildlife officials if an animal that appears sick is seen or shot.
Wear rubber or latex gloves when field-dressing carcasses.
Bone out the meat from the carcass.
Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field-dressing is completed.
Request that each carcass is processed individually to prevent meat from other animals being added or self process if possible.
Have the carcass processed in the endemic area where it was taken so that high-risk body parts can be properly disposed of there.
Only bring permitted materials back to Pennsylvania.